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Far-Flung Leadership Opportunities for Teens

Seize the summer with these exciting activities


Published on: January 23, 2018

Teens at camp

Here's an idea for your summer: Why not send your talented teen away for a few weeks to a place they can grow both as a student and as an individual?

There are more summer leadership programs out there than ever. Don’t despair about the costs, either; almost all of them offer some kind of scholarship or financial assistance.

And if you don’t see your child’s particular interest on our list below, try Googling “summer programs” along with your teen’s fascination and see what awaits! 

For the budding entrepreneur

UC Berkeley’s Business Academy for Youth provides entrepreneurial minds the opportunity to create a business from scratch while they learn how to craft a business plan. Students are tasked with research that helps them refine and test their ideas against real-world markets.

For the business student

Economics for Leaders programs are week-long sessions held at campuses and taught by faculty from Berkeley to Boston. The program gives students a foundation in analyzing economic systems and how they interact with public policy. 

UCLA’s Anderson School of Management runs the Summer Discovery program focused on management careers in sports, media, and digital marketing. This cutting edge program combines classroom academics with on-site visits to iconic media and sports destinations.

For the college credit collector

While many programs offer some form of collegiate credit, the USC Summer Program is designed specifically to give teens a jump start at USC. Students select from more than 20 courses including architecture, pre-law and journalism, and end the four weeks with three units of USC elective credit.

For the forever student

The Telluride Association Summer Program is a free opportunity for high school juniors to expand on their natural curiosity. Academic sessions vary throughout the six-week period, and are focused on conversation and growth rather than lectures and achievement. Teens are put in groups that structure and plan off-time activities, giving them experience working with teams.

For the Ivy League candidate

The Yale Young Global Scholars program is one of the most competitive and rigorous in the nation, designed to give kids bound for top-level colleges early exposure to high concept learning. Six fields of study are offered, plus a seventh session held in Beijing that’s specifically focused on Asia as an emerging power.

For the future scientist

The Museum of Flight offers the Western Aerospace Scholars Program for kids interested in exploring STEM fields. Students start with an online program based on curriculum from the University of Washington that’s focused on NASA’s work. If the student successfully completes the course, they’re invited to participate in additional summer experiences exposing them to careers in STEM.

For the future medical professional

Most colleges with medical schools have some version of a summer program. If your teen already knows where they’d like to go to school, it’s not a bad idea to check whether the affiliated med school offers a summer program.

For a more introductory approach, the Boston Leadership Institute offers programs ranging from surgical research to contagions to intro to anatomy. The three-week progras can be done in-residence or as day programs. 

For the math whiz

Stanford University’s summer math program offers four weeks where talented math students can immerse themselves in higher mathematical concepts. Participants study the history of math and how those concepts are being used in the real world.

For the research assistant wannabe

The Clark Scholars program at Texas Tech runs for seven weeks and provides research opportunities from among the university’s disciplines for high school juniors and seniors. Student scholars are paid a stipend and receive free room and board for the duration of the program. Students must be 17 by the program start date of June 18.

For the environmental activist

For a teen considering a career in conservation, Earthwatch offers expedition and fellowship opportunities that combine travel and environmental research. Working with research teams in the field, students get a look at the opportunities and challenges in this growing field.

For the teen who's undecided about college

If your student isn't sure about college, consider a program like UCSB’s pre-college offerings. Students take one or two courses over several weeks while living in the dorms. The program covers a range of goals, from academic credit to personal growth.

Summer programs just for girls

For the techie

Girls Who Code is one of the largest outreach organizations for young women interested in exploring computer technology. They run free summer programs in several cities where participants learn on the campuses of some of the country's largest tech companies. 

For the outdoor enthusiast 

Inspiring Girls is a tuition-free program that chooses teams of girls who spend 12 days studying glaciers with scientists, artists and mountain pros. Programs include locations in Washington state, Alaska, Colorado, Glacier National Park and Switzerland.  

For the budding feminista

The Young Women’s Leadership Institute challenges girls to examine the relationship between leadership and gender. Workshops, labs and seminars help students understand feminist theory and the role of women in the past and future. 

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